Are Your Values Powerful Enough to Combat Covid-19 Disruption?

Chief Executive Officer

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Guest: Fiona Kesby, the CEO of Go-VA, which is a company that provides outsourcing services to firms around the world. She’s also an entrepreneur coaching client at CEO Coaching International.

Episode in a Tweet: Strong culture and a commitment to BIG values can keep your business growing through the pandemic.

Quick Background: CEOs have discovered that the culture they created before Covid-19 is playing a BIG role in how well their companies are moving through the pandemic environment. Rearranging the nuts and bolts of what you do is a heck of a lot easier if you have a clear vision of why you’re doing it, as well as strong values supporting every person and process.

On today’s show, Fiona Kesby discusses how her principles have guided her virtual assistant firm through not just a Covid-19 disruption, but a full military lockdown by the Philippine government that’s one of the longest quarantines in the whole world.

Transcript: Download the full transcript here.

Key Insights on the Power of Strong Culture from Fiona Kesby

1. Use daily huddles to reinforce culture.

Most businesses assumed that maintaining a communication rhythm would be one of the lowest hurdles to clear during Covid-19. Instead, it turned out that Zoom is actually a whole new language to learn. Simple best practices like using video, sticking to an agenda, and having the meeting’s leader call on participants in turn have helped us limit the overlapping babble and keep everyone focused. But an effective meeting rhythm does more than just cross items off your company’s to-do list.

Fiona Kesby says, “The entire play for us has always been about driving engagement and morale. And as a leader, you can influence this with your energy when you’re seeing people in the hallways on a daily basis. But then when you shift that to the remotely distributed teams locally or internationally, there’s a whole new problem to solve, isn’t there? So unless you have a framework and the right tools to make it happen, it’s really hard.”

Fiona’s solution is a five-step framework that has improved her virtual daily huddles:

  1. Connect at the same time, same place, every day. Fiona’s team members receive a link every day that takes them into the virtual meeting room with one click.
  2. Read the manifesto. Team members take turns reading a statement of purpose that’s specific to each team (more on this in a bit).
  3. Share your goals and priorities. Each team member has 2-3 minutes to restate their top goal and share their top three priorities from yesterday and their top three priorities for today.
  4. Troubleshoot roadblocks. Each team member discusses what could be getting in the way of achieving key initiatives and colleagues offer their input.
  5. Give encouragement. Team members acknowledge top performers and show support for those who need a little boost.

Fiona went the extra mile during the pandemic and created her own online platform to host these huddles, including whiteboards that visualize key points and an interactive emoji system to enhance personalized feedback. But a standard Zoom or Skype call could benefit from this framework for consistency, simplicity, and efficacy as well.

2. Have a purpose that shows you care.

The fact that reciting a company manifesto is a line item for every one of Fiona Kesby’s meetings shows just how important culture is to her. Maybe more importantly, it shows Fiona’s understanding of a key business principle that eludes so many struggling CEOs: the need to have a mission greater than pure profit that your customers and employees can rally around.

“Our main purpose statement is ‘To unleash the human potential of every person in our tribe and find ways to help our clients scale their business,’” Fiona says. “So, what we did is break that down so each department or each position could have their own purpose statement or manifesto that sat underneath our main one. And by repeating that each day, it’s a really powerful reminder. We actually hear the commitment in the voice of each person. It’s actually like pouring lighter fluid on a fire when it comes to engagement and alignment.”

Sitting above that mission statement is a strong value system that Fiona has made a core part of her strategic process.

“This year we selected the strategy ‘Act with Love,’ Fiona says. “We really believe in a time of crisis that we need to lead with care. We have a really simple leadership philosophy and that’s to lead from the heart and just be a really good human being. Some people actually told me straight out that you can’t ‘Act with Love’ in a business environment. And you can’t tell people that you love them and care for them. And so we actually said, ‘Well, how could you not? How could you not have people feeling cared for and loved and safe?’”

fiona kesby

Fiona Kesby: We really believe in a time of crisis that we need to lead with care. We have a really simple leadership philosophy and that’s to lead from the heart and just be a really good human being.

3. Lead from a place of caring.

To put their main strategic value in action, Fiona Kesby and her team leaders ask themselves a simple question when they’re faced with a key decision: “Are we acting out of love or fear?” In this present environment, avoiding fear is a tough challenge for any CEO to set for herself. But this strong sense of values led Fiona through a critical decision early in the pandemic. For her team to keep working once the company’s offices closed, Fiona’s virtual assistants needed computers at home. Some of her competitors were asking their clients to put down large security deposits on company computers they wanted to take home. Fiona had a 24-hour window to make her decision before the government locked her doors.

“I said, how about let’s act out of love?” Fiona remembers. “And I said, just get all those PCs home. And by doing that, we had no downtime. Our clients didn’t lose any work time. Our team members didn’t have any loss of income because they weren’t working. And there was lots of positive feedback afterwards. Clients were saying, ‘Thank you. We really appreciate that there was no downtime. And had we been charged a security deposit, along with the impact of COVID-19, we just couldn’t afford it.’”

Like any good CEO, Fiona says that culture fit is a key part of her hiring process. But it’s going to take some extra effort from the CEO to help employees face their fears and stay productive during this uncertain moment. Vulnerability and empathy are two traits that don’t necessarily fit the old CEO stereotypes. It’s critical that you exercise both in the months ahead. Your ability to understand what people who depend on you need right now and to confront challenges without being paralyzed by them will define how your company emerges from this crisis.

Says Fiona Kesby, “When you focus on the culture and when you look after your team members, you make them feel safe, and they’re happy. They’re productive. They do a great job. Clients are happy so then they hire more people. And then in turn, they tell their friends as well. And that’s where our growth has come from, by simply focusing on the value of care and all these years of acting with love.”

Top Takeaways

1. Upgrade your meeting rhythm. Daily virtual huddles help combat isolation and keep your team motivated to succeed.

2. Acknowledge fear but don’t let it dominate your decision-making.

3. Take care of your people. Be mindful that even your most dedicated workers are dealing with concerns that are bigger than business.

Transcript: Download the full transcript here.

Strong culture and a commitment to BIG values can keep your business growing through the pandemic.
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About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 600 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 40 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 59% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit:

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